JAY-Z: Made in America is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced, as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove.
Dyson writes with the affection of a fan but the rigor of an academic ... is never better than when dismantling what Dyson refers to as 'the politics of black masculinity' ... offers the most professorial explanation of the early-2000s war between Jay-Z and Nas that has ever been committed to print.
Dyson’s...laudatory biography places Jay-Z at the center of our cultural, social, and political times. The author’s effusiveness comes through on every page, which—in lesser hands—would make this title one long fan letter, but it’s a tribute to Dyson’s prowess that he so effectively gives dimension and relevant context to each thoughtful interpretation of the artist’s work, while his always fascinating tangents add depth. Under Dyson’s guidance, to read about Jay-Z is to learn not just about the journey and works but also about ourselves, our history, our world, and our way forward ... This is more than a hip-hop bio; Dyson is giving us something larger, and we are sitting in a classroom under the spell of a captivating teacher.
With a fun, opinionated discography and impressive richness, eloquence, and intertextuality, Dyson’s portrait places the soon-to-be-50 husband of Beyoncé in cultural context for fans and the curious alike, linking Jay-Z’s life and art to painter Basquiat, crooner Marvin Gaye, and poet Walt Whitman. The author rhymes, uses alliteration, and delivers Dyson-isms to describe Jay’s endeavors ... Though he doesn’t interview the artist, he makes his case that as a truth-telling racial unifier, political influencer, and 'vocal evangelist for developing generational wealth in black communities,' Jay-Z represents a symbol of 'overcoming' for hip-hop culture and American society. At times Dyson sounds like a fanboy as he deliberately and refreshingly avoids rap-bashing, while quoted lyrics from profound, profane, tame, even lame songs by Jay-Z illuminate his artistic spectrum.